You Are Enough, Truly

‘Our society capitalizes on making us feel as if we are inadequate in some way…’ is a paraphrase of one of my new favorite and most powerful quotes from one of the countless documentaries I partook of this past week. I really do wish I could remember who said it. He probably said some more really profound shit, but regardless, when I let that statement really settle in to me, I realized the implications. If you’ve read some of my other happiness pieces, you’ll know that one of the things I strive and aspire to do is help as many people as possible achieve happiness and balance in their lives, and this statement really bothered me because it basically meant that our society is built and profits from our insecurities, which society itself, helps to create, exacerbate and then market and sells us the solution. How’s that for a slap in your face!

What exactly am I talking about? If you’re like myself, you require hardcore examples to help paint an unmistakable picture, so I will paint away. Everywhere we turn in society we are faced with overt sexual images because everyone knows, ‘sex sells,’ (duh!) And these images we’re force-fed aren’t filled with overweight, fluffy, people; quite the contrary, they contain thin, fragile, fresh-from-throwing-up-their-lunch models, and rock-hard dudes who look like they eat, sleep and snort steroids, who subconsciously make us all believe this is the standard body image that we must strive for, or be less desirable and die a lonely, miserable death. Thus we are all compelled to buy expensive home gym equipment, or get a membership and rock cute elastic outfits to workout in for all of five days, because after that, ‘eh, oh well’. Now, I don’t want anyone to confuse the example as me not being a proponent of good health. I believe in taking care of the body, mind and spirit, but I don’t believe we should be subconsciously guilted into believing we have to do something to achieve some predetermined, accepted result. But, lo and behold, this is how our society operates.

If the body image example isn’t working for you, hang on, I’ve got another one, countless ones really, but I’ll leave it at two, unless you inbox me. Let’s talk technology. Gadgets. Cue the angelic bells that seem to toll when people discuss the virtues of the latest Apple this or Samsung that. We barely master how to use our 5 version before the shelves are stocked with the 6 and 6s. And let’s be honest; how many people really use all 21,437 features these ‘smart’ devices come with? Not many of us. But, somehow, we are made to feel as if we live under a rock and speak Hebrew if we don’t own the latest whatchamacallit. When a friend of mine told me he paid $1100 for the latest phone, I told him that unless the phone came with a $1000 rebate, I wasn’t jumping on that bandwagon. I didn’t even know they were charging this much for phones now! People are driving whole cars that cost less! As you can tell, clearly, I am one of the people who lives under a rock, still using my two-year old phone that I got free with a contract. And we won’t even talk about my computers…I subscribe to the age-old adage, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ and have managed to save myself quite a bit of money and headaches that way. But that is not what Capitalism wants. Capitalism wants you spending half your day in that Apple store trying to get your gadget working right. After spending that kind of money, they’d need to send a geek to my house personally, damn waiting in those crazy ass lines where you can happen to mistakenly mess around and buy some more bullshit that’s going to end up having you back in that line (I’m imagining Apple wouldn’t be too thrilled with me, cancel the Apple endorsements…). But really, it all becomes an insanely expensive hamster wheel. And who wants to be on a wheel, even if you’re listening to iTunes?

So since I’ve reached my two example cap, I think we need to talk realizations. And the first is that, simply, ‘you are enough’. It doesn’t matter if you’re a size two or if you have the latest phone on your hip or are wearing the latest fashions. None of it defines who you are or who you can become. A person doesn’t know any more about the quality of your character based on the car you drive, nor does driving a certain car improve your character. We spend so much time adding unnecessary stress and pressure onto ourselves trying to accomplish some unrealistic goals set forth by our capitalistic society because we are worried about what everyone else thinks that we end up missing the important things in life and rob ourselves of joy and peace of mind. Stop it! Today! The only one you need to truly need to be concerned about impressing is you. Any decisions we make should be because we need to, because we want to, because it’s the right thing to do, or because it’ll help someone else. Our decisions should not be made just because something just came out, we want to one up our associates, or we feel like everyone else is doing it because those reasons speaks more to personal insecurity and should be explored further.

After we realize that we truly are enough, we need to bring more mindfulness to our lives and into our decision-making processes. So often we act because somebody else did or because we were told to. Instead, we need to ask more questions like, ‘why am I doing this?’ ‘do I really need this (or to do this)?’ ‘how is this benefiting the me of tomorrow?’ My theory is that with more mindful behavior we’ll have less mindless acts that continuously lead to our unhappy occupancy of the hamster wheel, because isn’t it time to get off? you are enough pic

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No Indictment

As we listened to the Prosecutor’s lengthy preemptive speech, my, probably like many others, intuition already knew what the decision would be. Therefore, when he finally got to the part where he announced, the grand jury didn’t indict on any of the five possible charges, there was nothing to do but shake my head in disgust, mutter a few words helpless discontent along with my significant other, and go to bed.

True to form though, I could only stay quiet so long, partially inflamed by a close friend, poking fun at me, asking if I was out protesting somewhere. From anyone else, that would have possibly been considered a real question, but from him, a snide rhetorical which led to our usual debate of race relations in America, who’s to blame for the current state of blacks, his somewhat stereotypical ‘buppie’ response of blacks needing to get off their asses and it being an economical problem, not racial and yada, yada, yada, and my less cutthroat ‘limited resources leads to limited results,’ argument. We agreed to disagree as always, but I was left wondering why he didn’t care and why I cared as much as I did.

And though I can’t answer for him, I can answer for why I care. For me, this matters because nearly every black man I know has been in either at least a tense situation with the police, or felt they have been profiled by the police. Nearly every black man I know. So what if this lack of an indictment leads to more cops now feel justified in using deadly force? They have this case and countless others to rely upon, providing them the security to believe they can blow a black kid’s head off and go home. Data already shows that young black males are killed by police at a far more alarming rate than their white counterparts-31.17 per million as opposed to 1.47 per million, respectively. There was a staggering 1,217 police-involved shooting deaths between 2010 and 2012 alone, according to federal data. The Bureau of Justice statistics also indicate that police officers are far less likely to be brought up on charges for these crimes.According to research conducted by a Bowling Green criminologist, only 1.5% of police-related homicides spanning a seven year period, ending in 2011, resulted in the cops being charged. If these numbers aren’t indicative of a systematic problem, I don’t know what is.

But just as quickly as I can spout off that data, someone will yell, “Well blacks kill each other more than that!” And while this may be true. As Giuliani readily argued, “93% of blacks are killed by other blacks.” What he didn’t mention however, was that same year, 2010, was that 84% of whites were killed by other whites. And that this tends to be because most murderers know their victim. I feel like I should have known that, with all those episodes of First 48! So, Mr. Giuliani, that stat is a little less impressive, but still brings up a valid, albeit digressive point, nonetheless. While I will agree that all homicides are a problem, black on black homicides are a different problem, with different solutions. The problem with an authority figure committing these seemingly needless or excessive acts of brutality is that it shifts the community’s already diminished trust in these institutions that we were taught were supposed to protect us. If we can’t call the police, whom we pay, with our tax dollars, who can we call? If we can’t rely on the justice system to persecute these individuals, who can we  rely on? We are left a voiceless, defenseless people. And I am told, this is economic. That because we are economically disenfranchised, the system doesn’t work the same for us. But I say, is it not by chance that most of us of color are the ‘don’t haves’?

Either way, I agree with part of the argument. To get to a viable solution, we are going to have to start economically. More black-owned businesses, more collaboration on the part of black business owners and churches, more economic opportunities within inner city communities to start. And by no means do I have a background in political science or economics, but I think we need a starting point and an emphasis on some solutions as to just restating the obvious problems.

I think we need to actively parent our children and the community’s children and increase their awareness about what may face them, because the only way to fight a problem, is to first know that the problem exists and realize that its an ever present battle here in America to be a successful minority. It is not impossible, maybe improbable and inequitable, but possible, nonetheless, And this is a problem everyone should own. Too many of us tend to find ‘success’ and our version of the ‘American Dream’ and become disconnected and look our nose down on those of us who weren’t as fortunate to make it through to the successful side. Mentoring should feel like a welcomed obligation, not an oft-shunned option. Success should be measured by how many people you help along your journey, not by the type of car you drive.

I was told that the idea of unified black collective is like expecting leprechauns and unicorns waiting with a pot of gold to meet me at the end of a rainbow. I don’t think I’m necessarily expecting a utopian black society, just accountability and responsibility leading to more progression. Conscious thought followed by intentional action is a great start. And since this is all economical, maybe I’m looking to help my people make their own money, since that’s the only way to be heard in America. Or so I’ve been told.

Resources:

1. FBI Supplemental Homicide Report

2. Department of Justice

Whose happiness is this anyway?

imagesOk, here I go again. All happy as heel and whatnot, trying to spread the love and energy to all those I can. I guess you can call me a Happiness Fairy. But in completing what I believe to be one of my life missions, I realized that happiness for many is a very abstract concept and the means to achieving it, are even more abstract. And I can’t just go around telling folks to get happy without some concrete steps to head them in that direction. For me, the first steps on my journey to happiness began with the simple realization that, I am responsible for my own happiness. Now, of course, the irrational will immediately argue, mainly for the sake of argument, that that means you can do whatever you want in order to be happy. NO. That is not what that means. Maybe it would mean that if you lived in a bubble where your actions didn’t affect others, but you don’t so others must always be considered to some extent. Basically, your happiness should not come at the expense of others. Of course, sometimes this is unavoidable. For instance, you getting a promotion at work may mean someone else doesn’t, but that doesn’t make you wrong for accepting that promotion. However, you intentionally sabotaging a person from achieving a promotion, not an optimal means to achieving happiness, and one that will come with some karmic consequences.

Being responsible for your own happiness means you realize that it’s not up to anyone or anything to bring you happiness. Many of us, myself included, make the mistake of making someone else responsible for our happiness. Our lay our happiness on the shoulders on husbands, wives, children, friends, or anyone we can blame when we’re not happy. Most of us do this without even realizing that we’re doing it. I didn’t realize that I had placed my happiness in someone else’s hands until that relationship started to falter and my attitude towards everything changed for the worst. Being the uber-analytical nerd that I am, I eventually stopped after a few months of this madness, to assess why I had become such a gloomy Gus, if you may, the Eeyore of the group. And that’s when it hit me like a stack of bricks that I’d tried to make another human being responsible for my own happiness. And I started back pedaling like hell after that, to get back to my happy, because nobody cares about your happiness like you do.

Some questions you can begin to ask yourself to determine how to begin to get back to happy are below:

1. When was the last time you were happy?

2. What made you happy then?

3. What are some causes of your current unhappiness? Be as specific as possible. (i.e., being unfulfilled at work, loss of a loved one, dissolving relatiionship, etc.

4. Is there anything bringing you unhappiness that you can change? If so, what are those changeable things? How do you begin changing them?

5. What are some things that bring you happiness, big and small. Include as many things as you can think of.

6. Can you add some of those things that make you happy into your normal routine? If so, what and how?

I’m sure we’ve all heard the cliche, ‘happiness is a choice,’ and no matter how contrived it sounds, it is true. We determine the attitude and energy we possess from day to day. When I think about people who seem unhappy (no one really acknowledges they aren’t happy, lest be diagnosed with a mental disorder), a lot of these folks have some commonalities or combination of traits that could be causing their own unhappiness. Inability to forget and forgive, holding on to and worrying about things you cannot change or things that aren’t very important, comparing yourself negatively to others or a preoccupation with what others have and/or have accomplished, feeling a need to compete with others, being unnecessarily critical of self and others, and feeling as if you have no control over your circumstances are just a few behavioral characteristics that I’ve noticed in people who look like that could use a happiness shot. If you’ve admitted to yourself that you possess a few or more of these traits, no worries, that beauty of behavior is that it’s changeable, once a target behavior has been identified. You do the work to make the changes you want to make. Your happiness is a perilous balance beam always teetering from side to side, depending on what life has decided to throw at you that day, but making sure you acknowledge your ever-changing happiness states and what’s caused an upset, ensures you are more balanced and relax. After all, there’s nothing wrong with smiling more.

imagesVisit www.actionforhappiness.org/10-keys-to-happier-living  for some additional tips on getting to your happy!

 

Michael Brown

Michael Brown.

Michael Brown

Another Black kid got shot yesterday
They still killing us off
Even though they put the ropes down
I can’t even count the new ways
From a highly capitalized prison system
Fueled by our poor economic conditions
Just trying to make a living
Reaping profits
On the government’s product
To a broken justice system
That allows a cold-blooded killer
To ‘Stand his Ground’
And condone
An innocent life shot down
Trayvon, Oscar, Darius
Jordan, Renisha and Michael
Watch us as ancestors
And wait now
Knowing that justice will be done
Whispering encouragement in our ears
As we try and figure out the ‘how’.

Hectic Life, Hectic Wife

hectic mom

Oh! My! God! I haven’t written a blog entry in over two weeks! I’m having problems with a venue for the family reunion! These allergies keep attacking the kids! I have to make more hair products for me and baby girl! Where are my marketing materials so I can start going to these doctors offices? What clothes will I make for that event August 9? Did I take something out for dinner? Ahhhhhh!!! Enter the sound of my head exploding from too much pressure of an ever-increasing to-do list constantly being auto-played in my mind, with bits and pieces of it making it onto scratch lists to be completed or not, that will later be lost in a pile of mail somewhere. Welcome to life as a stay-at-home mother, wife (of sorts), multi-business (albeit a couple are new) entrepreneur, writer and student of life (since I’m typically always learning something) to name a few of the big hitters that come to mind, and it is CRAZY.

Much like the lady in the picture, I find myself juggling a thousand tasks, while still trying to find a few moments here and there for myself. And the truth is, it’s difficult, sometimes seemingly impossible. Sometimes things don’t get done. Everything is not going to be perfect. That has been the toughest pill for a recovering perfectionist to swallow. I am my own worst critic. I rarely compliment myself and if I do, it’s followed by what I’ll do better the next time. Previously, I would have given myself hell for missing my self-produced requirement of at least 2 blog entries per week and would have felt like I was already failing at something I was just beginning, leading to a cycle of negative emotions that would have spilled over into other aspects of my life. Instead, as a recovering perfectionist, I forgive, forget, and say I’ll do better next time without any guilt, realizing I can only do what I can each and every day, and sometimes that I may fall short of my expectations (which tend to be super-high anyway from what I hear) or someone else’s but as long as I’m content with my progress, then that’s all that matters.

As a part of my ‘student of life’ studies, I’ve been reading a lot about energies and how they can affect our moods and how we carry energy around and the affect it has on us. One of the key connecting elements in the articles is the necessity of being mindful of your own energy, and that awareness alone has allowed me control my own emotions and actions better. I used to always be schedule-oriented to the point of not enjoying the moment because I had to make sure everything was on track, always carrying with me a rushed energy, causing unnecessary stress. And while I still watch the clock, because I value my time tremendously, I no longer feel like it’s the end of the world, if one of the kids throws me off my nicely thought out plans, and am beginning to appreciate the gift of every minute.

RIP, friends

I attended a funeral service on Saturday. A very sad, somber and sobering service, more so even,  than your standard funeral for several reasons. The coffin that greeted funeral goers contained that of a 30-year old young man who’d died of a massive heart attack, while in the company of ‘friends’. Sitting here peacefully at age 32, that alone, touched me. We all know life is short, but not 30 years short, typically. As I looked around the small chapel, attached to the funeral home, where the service was held, I was also struck by how many of the approximate 130 seats were empty. Of the 130 seats, over a hundred were empty. The room contained no more than 25 people, including the funeral directors. A pitiful turnout to celebrate the life of an individual who was happiest in the company of others and was always willing to give his last to help another. Whether his last was money, time or energy, he would offer it to you with a smile. At the time of his death, he’d opened his home to someone who’d needed a place to stay. Sadly though, as I looked around his service, I couldn’t find any of those people he would so effortlessly and kindly assist with their lives. They couldn’t take a minute out of their continued life to appreciate someone who’d been a friend to them. And now obvious they were never his friends in life, it was still disconcerting that they couldn’t still couldn’t see past themselves in his dying.

“It was as if he were never here,” was a comment voiced during a discussion I was having about this individual. So powerful in the sentiment, that that comment will always remain with me, because of what it represented. The truth is, he WAS here, and I’m sure he never thought his life would end with only twenty people celebrating him. Most of us have more family than that who would at least come for a free meal (granted there was no repast at this service, but still) or to see what you looked like ‘going home.’ As I continued my lament about how disrespectful and unappreciative people are, I was struck with a thought that began whispering itself to me last year. ‘It’s about who you surround yourself with.’ And that’s when I started making some changes. I used to believe that as long as you knew a person’s character, you could still be around them because you’d know how to deal with them. But the older I get, the more I realize that’s not true. It’s never worth it to have in-genuine people in your circle because they will never have your best interests in their heart, only what they can take. And that will last until the day you die, and possibly beyond, as this man, who died on June 9, still has an apartment occupied by someone who didn’t even think enough of him to bid him a final farewell. 

So I began focusing on genuine, loving and reciprocal relationships. I want to invest in others who want to invest in me. As I journey down this new road, that has meant the death of some friendships and the severe limiting of other relationships, which has not been easy, but has proven well worth it to date. So though I hated to bid ado to such a young, selfless soul, I was reaffirmed in my decision to bid ado to those meaningless relationships that I’d held onto for way too long. RIP!

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